Clara Campoamor (Madrid, 12 February, 1888–Lausanne, 30 April, 1972) was a Spanish politician and feminist best known for her advocacy for women's rights and suffrage during the writing of the Spanish constitution of 1931. A child of a working-class family, Campoamor began work as a seamstress at age 13, later working in a number of government positions before securing entry to law school at the University of Madrid. She became active in a number of women's organizations before standing for election as a member of the 1931 Constituent Assembly, to which she and two other women were elected despite that Spanish women could not vote at the time. Her advocacy led to the inclusion of language in the 1931 constitution of Spain that guaranteed equality between men and women. She later lost her parliamentary seat and briefly served as a government minister before fleeing the country during the Spanish Civil War. Campoamor died in exile in Switzerland.
Campoamor was born in Madrid to a working-class family. She had to begin working as a seamstress at age 13, but continued to study part-time on the side, eventually seeking to pass the test that would guarantee her entry into law school. In the interim, she worked her way up through a number of government positions, first with the Post Office in San Sebastian in 1909, then as a typing teacher in Madrid in 1914. As a teacher, she began to become involved in the Madrid political scene, taking a second job with a liberal newspaper.
After successfully taking the law school entrance exam and entering the University of Madrid School of Law, Campoamor continued to work multiple jobs; as a teacher, as a secretary for the newspaper, and as a typist for the government. She also began writing political commentary and joined women's organizations. After she earned her degree in 1924 at age 36 and entered practice, Campoamor began participating in debating and intellectual societies in Madrid. Her practice specialized in issues affecting women, including paternity cases and issues related to marriage. She would champion these issues in the professional organizations she became a member of, and the International Federation of Women Lawyers that she helped found in 1928.
Campoamor successfully advocated in 1927 for improvements to the child labor laws and electoral law changes. When it became legal for women to run for the Constituent Assembly that would write a new constitution in 1931, she stood for a seat and was elected despite her inability to vote in the election.
She became the first woman to address the constituent assembly of Spain that October, in a speech warning the male members of the assembly that their continued exclusion of women from voting was a violation of natural law. Her strong advocacy for women's rights was opposed not only by political conservatives and conservative Roman Catholics but by men on the left and even one of only two other woman in the assembly, Victoria Kent, who felt the time was not right to push for equality. When her own party decided to oppose women's suffrage, she left the party and continued to advocate for suffrage as an independent member of the assembly. Throughout her political career, she would insist that her main role was to be a spokesperson for women, and women's issues remained her primary concern. Despite her independent affiliation and the strong party system at that time, with the support of women's activists throughout Spain she was able to secure equal legal status for women in the new constitution.
Following the assembly's drafting of the new constitution, Campoamor became a political outcast because of her outspoken advocacy and willingness to abandon her party on principle. She lost her seat in parliament in 1933, but was appointed Director of Public Welfare from 1933 to 1934. In 1936, as the rumblings of the Spanish Civil War brought violence to Madrid, she fled the country in fear for her life. Settling in Lausanne, Switzerland, she was barred from returning by Spain's Franco regime unless she gave up names of allies and publicly apologized for past statements against the Catholic Church. As an exile, she continued to write about feminism and her experiences in politics.
Campoamor died in exile in 1972. Her ashes were repatriated and buried in San Sebastian.
|Clara Campoamor, la mujer olvidada||2011||Laura Mañá|